Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Domestic Terrorism and the New Schizophrenia

Between the holidays and an extended work assignment, it's been awhile. Grab a cup of something relatively strong and have a seat.

So one of the stories that received relatively little play in the domestic mainstream media is this.

For as progressive (and beautiful) a community that Washington west of the Cascades is, Washington east of the Cascades is not. From a tax and revenue perspective, you can guess which third of the state supports the other two thirds, but I digress, as the hypocrisy of what types of areas of the country support which others via tax revenue is a topic for another day. (I'll give you this much of a hint though, if you pulled all of the federal money out of South Carolina, there would be no more South Carolina. Which is a shame because Charleston is a really nice city).

The main point here is this. If there's one resolution or goal that I have/would like to see for 2011 it's that we start calling a spade a spade. From the above article about the parade bomb:

"At that point, it falls directly in the realm and sphere of domestic terrorism," (FBI Special Agent Frank )Harrill told the Associated Press. "Clearly, there was some political or social agenda here."This country has developed an accelerated domestic terrorism problem, where people with political agendas seek to enforce those agendas through the use of violence.

They do this by shooting up Unitarian Churches because liberals attend them, crashing their planes into office buildings because they don't like the tax code, or shooting police officers because Obama is coming to take their guns away. That is, if they aren't leaving bombs at polling places or, shooting a Congresswoman.

But to pay attention to contemporary media, this country doesn't have a domestic terrorism problem. It has a lone gunman/he was always such a quiet neighbor who kept to himself problem. Terrorism is reserved for those people of non white races and non-Christian religions who would seek to harm those who, implicitly, are white and are Christian. Terrorism in common vernacular is reserved for those groups who are needed to justify foreign military action, or the potential for foreign military action.

The reality is that we don't begin to make progress on all terrorism related issues until we begin calling a spade a spade. And until we redefine terrorism as acts of violence by all types of people on or toward all types of people as part of our daily discourse, both domestic and foreign, we won't begin to acknowledge and address the increasing problem we have in this country of people resorting to violence to get their point across. At least in this case, the FBI calling a spade a spade is a good start.

Extra Points
There are a couple of offshoots of the recent shooting of Congresswoman Giffords that generate worthy discussion points. The first, which is well covered, is the accelerated degradation of our public political discourse in our country by the Sarah Palins and Sharron "2nd Amendment Remedies" Angles of the world. It finally appears as if the swarming of sentiment on this issue means the expiration of Palin's 15 minutes of fame, which is at least 13 minutes overdue (Although a final act of tanking in the 2012 Republican primary may be in order to complete the job).

The second involves mental illness. Of the four most recent examples of domestic terrorism I've described above, at least three of them involve mental illness, specifically a schizophrenic derivative. A significant segment of our society suffers from some degree of this, either medically or in an intellectual void in the way we perceive the world around us (which I call Casual Schizophrenia). If you're told the world around you is increasingly violent (despite ample evidence to the contrary) or that a specific subgroup of society is out to get you, you become susceptible to an ever larger and more ridiculous series of messages about just how "bad" things are. Or how deep the conspiracy (which really doesn't exist)against you or your subgroup actually is. (

What gets little play is that the people telling you these things are usually just in it to sell you something. Glen Beck has advertisers. Goldline is hawking a service based on a perpetually pending economic collapse. Politicians telling you Obama isn't a citizen want you to make donations and get your vote, so they can continue to collect donations and profit personally from your ignorance. If you haven't listened to your local AM Radio station because the programming is 99% Republican rubbish, flip it on for an hour or so, less so for the pointless programming than for what the commercials are and what's being sold. So the call to "improve our political discourse" is nice, but there's a lot of money being made in stoking casual schizophrenia, and since that's one of the last remaining sources of income for at least one form of communication (radio), I wouldn't look for it to change any time soon.

The third also involves mental illness. Again, referring back to the four examples of domestic terrorism listed above, at least three of them were most likely carried out by legitimate schizophrenics. This lead in no small part to the sad state of mental illness treatment in this country.

Now, there are hundreds of reasons why Ronald Reagan was far from the saint that Baby Boomers make him out to be (mainly because he's all they have to cling to as a generational leader in recent memory, and as Boomers get older and more conservative they hold him in increasing esteem), but one area in which his administration clearly deserves scorn is it's treatment of the mentally ill. For example, the Mental Health Systems Act of 1980, which was rapidly defunded upon his taking office, would have expanded funding of treatment programs for the mentally ill at a community level, the consequence of and need for are now, based on the recent examples above, being laid bare.

The defunding was carried out in a manner consistent with the Reagan administration's CBO's modus operandi in these matters (and one the Harper government repeats in Canada today); provide continually shrinking "block grants" to states to distribute in the manner they see fit, while simultaneously removing any real substantive oversight on how those shrinking budgets are administered. This is a good primer on the topic.

That wasn't even Reagan's first kick at the can of cutting off funding for mental hospitals, he attempted to do so after the Lanterman-Petris-Short Act of 1967 was signed into law as governor of California, in the early 1970s. This is an example of the state level implementation failures of what his administration replicated at a federal level.

The end result is two generations of decreasing availability of mental health services for those who need them the most. In addition, as states received less funding and the Mental Health Systems Act was effectively gutted, states essentially no longer had the funding to allow for the involuntary admission of patients by other family members where they were still committed to legally. Michigan, for example, eliminated these type of involuntary admissions without court order in late 1981, in accordance with the ruling in O'Connor v. Donaldson (which, in fairness, was unanimous and had terrible consequences for large numbers of mentally ill).

I've ventured into incredibly abstract territory here, and I appreciate your indulgence. Tying everything back to more recent events, when you have:

  • An environment where people who are prone to schizophrenia, either casual or medical,
  • A mental health infrastructure that is ill equipped to assist people because it is defunded and lacks standards,
  • A system by which people with real problems but no criminal record who can no longer be involuntarily committed, particularly paranoid schizophrenics,
  • An environment in which these people are eagerly sold a fraudulent bill of goods that feeds their schizophrenia and
  • An environment in which these types of people can legally or illegally acquire the means by which they can cause harm to large numbers of people,
The end result is the upswing in domestic terrorism that permeates the news cycle. And until we address the root causes of the problem, it's only going to get worse. And unfortunately, it took the near assassination of a Congresswoman to kick start the conversation.

1 comment:

  1. Nice post Mr. Cromartie. Very good points here. Okay, define the difference between terrorist or freedom fighter... It all based on one's perspective but I agree, this is a form od domestic terrorism.

    On the mental health issue, how does the Obama health plan further mental health programs in the US?